Bloomberg New Energy Finance

Solar factories edge into the black

With stable prices and strong markets in Asia, the solar sector is enjoying renewed optimism. The mood is less upbeat in the worlds of US biofuel and UK wind as their respective governments bend to pressure for reform.

The dust is beginning to settle on what has been a tumultuous few years for the solar industry. The trade dispute between the EU and China was finally put to bed at the start of December 2013 when EU countries approved an agreement struck with China in July. The anti-dumping deal sets a minimum price and a volume limit on European imports of Chinese solar panels until the end of 2015. Chinese manufacturers that take part will be spared EU tariffs. Low-cost manufacturers in Southeast Asia, India and Taiwan are the main beneficiaries of the import restrictions. Some are able to offer modules at a 10-percent discount to the minimum Chinese import price, and there is talk of expansion.

Sunpower Corp., for example, the second-largest US solar-panel maker, plans to build a factory in the Philippines that will produce 350 megawatts (MW) of panels a year from 2015. Many of the major module manufacturers cut their production costs by about ten percent in the first half of 2013 compared with the f nal quarter of 2012, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. While this is reassuring for investors, and no doubt has contributed to the sharp rise in share prices among many such companies over the last 12 months, there is still a considerable risk of bankruptcy.

This is an abridged version of the article – the full text is available in new energy issue 01/2014

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